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Friday's PRO14 teams for season's opening games
Friday's PRO14 teams for season's opening games

Team news ahead of the opening games of the new Guinness PRO14 season, with Ulster hosting newcomers the Cheetahs.

Munster will welcome Benetton to Thomond Park in the second of three games, while Richard Cockerill’s first competitive game in charge of Edinburgh sees his side travel to Cardiff to take on the Blues.

Cockerill has been pleased with the preparations he has been able to put in place since taking up his new post this summer, but he confessed until the action gets under way at the Arms Park, he will have no idea whether his team are up to speed or not.

“I’m optimistic,” said Cockerill. “The boys have had a good pre-season, but I’m sure everyone is saying the same in that regard.

Richard Cockerill's Edinburgh travel to Cardiff to take on the Blues
Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh travel to Cardiff to take on the Blues

“We’ve had a couple of good weeks, we just need to make sure we go and we put our best game out on the field.

Michael Hooper replaces Stephen Moore as Australia captain

“We’ve prepared well, but we just don’t know what to expect until we get into the live scenario. We’re going there to win, that’s our mentality and so it should be. We’re looking forward to it.”

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 1 Rhys Gill, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 Seb Davies, 5 Damian Welch, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Josh Navidi, 8 Nick Williams.

Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhil, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Tom James.

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 1 Darryl Marfo, 2 Stuart McInally, 3 WP Nel, 4 Anton Bresler, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 7 John Hardie, 8 Magnus Bradbury (c).

Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Glenn Bryce.

Munster v Benetton Rugby 7.35pm

Tyler Bleyendaal will lead Munster in their first outing of the PRO14 season
Tyler Bleyendaal will lead Munster in their first outing of the PRO14 season

Tyler Bleyendaal skippers last year’s losing finalists in their first outing at Thomond Park, with scrum-half Duncan Williams partnering his captain in the half-backs.

Irishman Ian McKinley starts at full-back for the Italians, who have former Highlanders star Marty Banks in the No 10 jersey.

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal (c), 9 Duncan Williams, 1 Liam O’Connor, 2 Rhys Marshall, 3 Stephen Archer, 4 Jean Kleyn, 5 Billy Holland, 6 Sean O’Connor, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 8 Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Brian Scott, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 James Hart, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Dan Goggin.

Benetton Rugby: 15 Ian McKinley, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Tommaso Allan, 11 Edoardo Gori, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 1 Federico Zani, 2 Luca Bigi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 4 Dean Budd (c), 5 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Francesco Minto, 7 Sebastian Negri, 8 Whetu Douglas.

Replacements: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Alberto Sgarbi, 23 Andrea Buondonno.

Ulster v Cheetahs 7.35pm

The Cheetahs will become the first southern hemisphere side ever to take part in the Guinness PRO14 competition when they take to the field on Friday night at the Kingspan Stadium.

“The Cheetah players are extremely excited to join this world-class championship”, said captain Neill Jordaan after arriving in Belfast on Wednesday.

Christian Lealiifano will make his Ulster debut against the Cheetahs
Christian Lealiifano will make his Ulster debut against the Cheetahs

The hosts have handed an immediate debut to newcomer Christian Lealiifano, who starts in the No 10 jersey for the Ulstermen.

Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 1 Kyle McCall, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 4 Robbie Diack, 5 Alan O’Connor, 6 Jean Deysel, 7 Chris Henry (c), 8 Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Callum Black, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Matthew Rea, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Darren Cave.

Cheetahs: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Clayton Blommetjies, 9 Shaun Venter, 1 Charles Marais, 2 Jacques du Toit, 3 Johan Coetzee, 4 Justin Basson, 5 Reniel Hugo, 6 Paul Schoeman, 7 Henco Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan (c).

Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Cecil Afrika, 23 Ryno Benjamin.